Thursday, February 23, 2017
The Great Wall Review
First let's get some controversy out of the way. Like so many movies these days, "The Great Wall" enters theaters with a fair share of controversy. Because that's what we do in 2017. We are actively searching for ways to be offended and we grasp onto every little thing that looks like controversy. While "Gods of Egypt" was a movie that deserved it's controversy since the movie made no effort whatsoever to cast even one non-American in an Egyptian movie that had nothing to do with America, "The Great Wall" falls into the category with "Split" and "A Dog's Purpose." Recent movies that didn't deserve their controversy, thus being the third movie in a month to make Americans look really stupid for throwing a fit at nothing. If you want to dive into the controversies of "Split" and "A Dog's Purpose," you can search out those movies in the archives on the right. As far as "The Great Wall" goes, it's not white-washed because 95 percent of the cast is Chinese. Matt Damon plays a European character who travels to China looking to do some trade and gets caught up in this situation. And it's not a white savior because Matt Damon doesn't save the day. In fact, he spends most of the movie either in prison or working alongside a competent Chinese army. So stop your complaining.
This is the part of the movie that shocked the heck out of me. You see, a ridiculous premise isn't inherently bad. If you know you have a ridiculous premise and you own it and go all in, then that can be super entertaining. It's for that reason that I enjoyed "xXx: Return of Xander Cage" last month and it's for that reason that I really love "Sharknado." I haven't seen all the sequels that they do every year, but that movie is hilariously awesome. The people who made it had that exact intention. They purposely made a really bad movie and they completely ran with it. It's when a movie like "Gods of Egypt" is trying to be super awesome and serious, but ends up being a complete joke that we get into the realm of unintentionally bad as opposed to intentionally bad. The people who made "The Great Wall" knew that they had something completely ridiculous on their hands and they ran with it. And they totally went the "Pacific Rim" route of throwing you into the action from the first scene instead of spending a bunch of time setting things up, which if you are making an intentionally bad movie, that's probably the way to go. "Pacific Rim" just might be the best bad movie ever because they had giant monsters fighting giant robots for pretty much the entire movie without wasting any time.
Thus I found myself being extremely entertained. It helped that I saw it in 3D IMAX for $5 at my local Megaplex here in Utah that does $5 Tuesdays. I wouldn't recommend paying the full price of a 3D IMAX ticket, but if you have a theater near you that has a similar deal, the visual effects in this movie are stunning, the cinematography is excellent, and the sound design and score are fantastic. This makes for the perfect IMAX experience. And the 3D is used super effectively. There were scenes where arrows or spears were flying past the camera that felt like they almost hit me and there were scenes that gave me a bit of vertigo when we were standing on top of the wall looking down. The 3D helped you get a good scope of how giant this wall is that a 2D showing wouldn't quite do justice. Add that to an epic Helm's Deep style of battle where a giant army of these lizard monsters were attacking the Chinese people at the wall with a high level of ferocity that made it terrifying at times. But yet the Chinese people had this elaborate plan of attack that was perfect. During this scene, Matt Damon and his partner were completely tied up, but watched in awe and terror at this army of lizard monsters attacking with the Chinese people defending. I shared those same emotions as him.
Sadly the movie never recovers. After a second act that put me to sleep, I immediately woke up for the third act once stuff started to happen and I was ready to be equally as entertained as I was in the fist act. In this instance I won't dive into very much detail, but I really wasn't that entertained with the finale. It had it's moments, but the way they decided to wrap things up in the final battle felt poorly planned out as if they had this really fun idea that they had no idea how to properly end, so they just winged it and threw something super cliche and predictable together. Thus I came out of the movie surprised that I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would, but overall disappointed because that first act made me so excited and happy that I felt shortchanged when they dropped the ball in act two and couldn't quite recover in act three. Thus as far as a recommendation goes, if you can find this in a local IMAX screen for pretty cheap and you have nothing else to see, it's worth a few dollars. If you can't, don't pay for a full ticket price. Wait for it to come to Netflix or Redbox so you can watch the extremely entertaining first act then fast forward to the mildly entertaining finale. You'd probably spend just the right amount of time with this. My overall grade for "The Great Wall" is a 6/10.